The rain was pouring down and the wind was blowing hard, but she didn’t yet understand quite how much danger she was in. What unravelled that night, and in the days and weeks that followed, made her understand those things we truly appreciate in life.
The story begins two years before when she had moved to this small town to get away from the constant commotion of the nearby city. Until that night, she had loved every minute of it; the locals exuded a genuine community spirit and she had come to count many of them as friends in the short time she had been there.
A river ran through the town, splitting off a small number of residential streets from the rest and, as the rainwater fell ever heavier, its level rose and rose.
Her house was part of the minority that sat on the far side of this river and it was here that her world would be turned upside down. There were flood defenses along the river and, from what she had been told, they had not been breached since they were first built some sixty years previous.
But the rain that night was unlike anything the town had experienced before; there was a sheer curtain of water falling from the sky in a ceaseless cascade.
At a quarter past nine in the evening, the river had swollen so much that the defenses were overwhelmed and water began to rage down towards her corner of town.
The first thing she was aware of was the sound of car alarms going off outside; the force of the water actually nudging them from their parking spots and setting off a symphony of sirens.
It was then that she looked outside and saw the muddy, murky water that was now enveloping her front garden and she began to worry.
She ran to her front door and sighed a sigh of relief upon finding no evidence of water getting in, but her feeling of security wouldn’t last long. The rain kept on pouring throughout the night and because the storm drains of the city flowed into this same river, there was now a torrent of water heading her way.
She went to bed feeling more than a little anxious, but not really comprehending what would happen over the course of the next few hours. She was woken during the night by the sound of banging and went to turn on the lights, but a flick of the switch brought nothing.
She got out of bed and went to the top of her staircase. Looking down into the darkness below, she saw a shimmery ripple from what little light there was reflecting off a pool of water below. She could see that it was already high enough to cover several steps on the stairs.
She went back to her bedroom and grabbed her mobile phone; frantically dialling the emergency services, she felt as if her peaceful existence had been shattered as her gut wrenched violently with fear.
Fortunately for her, the situation was well known to those who could help her and she was told to stay put and wait for the rescue boat to reach her. She looked out of her bedroom window and the sight nearly took her breath away; the entire neighborhood was underwater. Cars were practically submerged with only the tallest SUVs still poking their roofs out above the river that now flowed where the road used to be.
It was another ninety minutes before help arrived and as she was carried out of her house by a man from the rescue team, she sobbed quietly into his shoulder.
After spending a sleepless night sheltering in the local church hall – the other part of town being largely unaffected – she wondered what would become of her.
But then, during that day, the misery that was her predicament turned slowly into a sense of overwhelming gratitude.
First, a team of volunteers brought hot breakfasts for all of those who needed them and did their best to comfort her as she stared blankly in shock. Then, as the morning went on, she received many phone calls from worried friends and family, and hundreds of messages on Facebook to wish her well.
Next, one of the friends she had made locally came and found her and insisted that she come and stay with her and her husband in their house across town. She didn’t want to be a burden, but, having nowhere else to go, she kindly accepted and off they drove together.
For the next three days, the floodwater slowly began to recede until, eventually, it was all gone. At this point, it was time for her to go back and see what was left of her home.
It was apparent as soon as she crossed the bridge to her side of town that she was not going to be returning to the home she had built for herself over those last two years. The streets were thick with mud that had been washed up, and there were the empty husks of cars scattered in places they ought not to be.
When she reached her house, she found that the entire ground floor had been decimated. The place was ripe with the smell of damp and nothing was left untouched by the water.
She took one look at it and the tears started flowing down her cheeks once again; she knew that she wouldn’t be able to return for some time to come.
She managed to get upstairs and pack a suitcase full of clothes and other essentials, and then she was off again to find more suitable long term accommodation. Her insurance company provided her with a room in a hotel in the city so she was forced to say goodbye to the town she called home – at least temporarily.
Over the next week or so, as she started to come to terms with it all, she experienced a change in her mindset that was most unexpected. Her thoughts turned from ones of despair to ones of gratitude – and even happiness – as friend after friend invited her round for home-cooked meals.
It became apparent to her then that, when our possessions are taken away from us – all of the home comforts, gadgets, and luxuries – that the things that really matter in life are not what you collect in the home, but what you collect in the heart.
The amount of love that had been shown and the support that was given made her realize that joy and happiness had not been taken from her, they had just been misplaced and that she had now found them again in the relationships she had with others.
This understanding of true happiness stays with her to this very day; months after the flood hit, she was able to return to her house and she has, once again, made it feel like a home.
Now, whenever something unwelcome happens, she is able to maintain a positive outlook and be thankful for the untold riches that she has in the form of friends, family, and even complete strangers who came to her rescue in her hour of need.
Her faith in humanity, in the power of people and community is stronger now than it ever was before.
She faced the storm, survived the best it could throw at her, and came out the other side a stronger and more resilient woman.
The moral of the story is this: whatever storms you face in life, be they actual or metaphorical, you can rest assured that you have people around you who will not let you face them alone.
The greatest treasure that a woman can own is that of friendship and, when everything else is gone, it will remain. So if you want to invest in anything, make it the people you love and care for – not the possessions that may be washed away at any time.